After receiving a record number of applications last spring, the College has successfully matriculated the most diverse class in its history, said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Steele.
With an unprecedented 5,026 applicants to consider, the Office of Admissions accepted more students this past April than in recent years, resulting in the size of the first year class increasing from 471 to 478 students.
To accommodate the increased number of first years during the renovations of Hyde and Appleton halls (see related story, page 3), the College recently constructed two new first-year dormitories on the corner of College and South Streets.
The dorms, tentatively called East Hall and West Hall, will be formally named in the near future. Last spring, the Board of Trustees voted to name one of the new dorms in honor of Bernard Osher '48, a Maine native and philanthropist whose San Francisco-based foundation collaborates with universities across the country to increase the quality of education available to adults. Osher has been a generous contributor to the College.
No decision has yet been reached as to the name of the second dorm. "There may be other important alums we may want to name the building after, other historical figures we might want to name the building after?it's too early to say," President Barry Mills said. "This is about people who care about the college, it is not about money."
East and West halls, which house 100 and 101 students respectively, offer a variety of sustainable elements to their residents. The new dorms include a geothermal heating and cooling system and rely heavily on natural lighting.
Beyond East and West halls' sustainable aspects, the physical layouts of the dorms themselves attempt to foster a community aspect that the older bricks do not. Both dorms are wheelchair-accessible and equipped with furnished lounges and study areas, and, unlike any of the other first-year dorms, East Hall boasts a full kitchen.
Despite the evident benefits of living in the new dorms, other aspects of East and West halls have been less than welcome. For all of Orientation, East Hall residents found themselves without hot water. With no laundry room installed in East to date, 201 first years and proctors have found themselves competing over a limited number of washers and dryers in West Hall.
Some classmates in the Bricks wonder whether East and West Hall residents find themselves feeling isolated.
"I love being on the Quad," Winthrop Hall resident Kristen Gunther '09 said. "I'm right in the middle of all the activity and close to all of my classes. Putting first years in a central location is a great way to orient them to their surroundings."
However, the most frustrating thing about the new dorms, according to residents, is the lack of dorm loyalty that seems to exist in the other first-year residence halls.
"Every dorm on campus has some sort of history or tradition to it, and it is up to the members of the Class of 2009 to start the traditions for the new dorms," Proctor Ian Haight '08 of East Hall said.
Geographically diverse both on campus and throughout the world, the first years hail from 39 states and the District of Columbia. This year has also seen a two percent decline in the number of New Englanders enrolled at Bowdoin.
"When I took my proctees to matriculation, Barry Mills asked to see how many of them were from Massachusetts or Boston," Haight said. "He was amazed when no one raised their hand."
International students from four continents also join the new group of first years, with a total of 21 international students in the culturally rich class. The class includes citizens of Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Korea, Myanmar, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the UK, and Zimbabwe.
This year, Bowdoin also welcomes its most racially diverse class to date, with 132 students of color admitted from 710 minority applications. Steele attributes this increase of interest to the success of the Bowdoin Invitational and Bowdoin Experience, two weekend programs designed to welcome students of color who are considering applying to the College.
"A very large number of those students follow through with an application," Steele said. "We've also been building up with a number of referral agencies outside of New England, especially in the South, that give us the names of outstanding students and leaders in their communities and schools."
The Class of 2009 finds itself unique in yet another way'56 percent of the class is female. This shift is evident on other campuses as well. "Many more women are coming out of high school," Steele said. "They are not drawn into the military or unions as much as men. Plus there's a trend for men to gravitate towards large universities."
Steele is not concerned with the dramatic increase in female enrollment. "We want the best and brightest students and we've been pleased with the students coming through our doors," he said.
Some first years are pleased as well.
"I've been most impressed by the strong sense of community at Bowdoin," Gunther said. "While most colleges advertise it, Bowdoin has it."
James Baumberger and Evan Kohn contributed to this report.